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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

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22. Chevy Chase

GOD prosper long our noble king,

our liffes and saftyes all!

A woefull hunting once there did

in Cheuy Chase befall.

To driue the deere with hound and horne

Erle Pearcy took the way:

The child may rue that is vnborne

the hunting of that day!

The stout Erle of Northumberland

a vow to God did make

His pleasure in the Scottish woods

three sommers days to take,

The cheefest harts in Cheuy C[h]ase

to kill and beare away:

These tydings to Erle Douglas came

in Scottland, where he lay.

Who sent Erle Pearcy present word

he would prevent his sport;

The English erle, not fearing that,

did to the woods resort,

With fifteen hundred bowmen bold,

All chosen men of might,

Who knew ffull well in time of neede

to ayme their shafts arright.

The gallant greyhound[s] swiftly ran

to chase the fallow deere;

On Munday they began to hunt,

ere daylight did appeare.

And long before high noone the had

a hundred fat buckes slaine;

Then hauing dined, the drouyers went

to rouze the deare againe.

The bowmen mustered on the hills,

well able to endure;

Theire backsids all with speciall care

that day were guarded sure.

The hounds ran swiftly through the woods

the nimble deere to take,

That with their cryes the hills and dales

an eccho shrill did make.

Lord Pearcy to the querry went

to view the tender deere;

Quoth he, “Erle Douglas promised once

this day to meete me heere;

“But if I thought he wold not come,

noe longer wold I stay.”

With that a braue younge gentlman

thus to the erle did say:

“Loe, yonder doth Erle Douglas come,

hys men in armour bright;

Full twenty hundred Scottish speres

all marching in our sight.

“All men of pleasant Tiuydale,

fast by the riuer Tweede:”

“O ceaze your sportts!” Erle Pearcy said,

“and take your bowes with speede.

“And now with me, my countrymen,

your courage forth advance!

For there was neuer champion yett,

in Scottland nor in Ffrance,

“That euer did on horsbacke come,

[but], and if my hap it were,

I durst encounter man for man,

with him to break a spere.”

Erle Douglas on his milke-white steede,

most like a baron bold,

Rode formost of his company,

whose armor shone like gold.

“Shew me,” sayd hee, “whose men you bee

that hunt soe boldly heere,

That without my consent doe chase

and kill my fallow deere.”

The first man that did answer make

was noble Pearcy hee,

Who sayd, “Wee list not to declare

nor shew whose men wee bee;

“Yett wee will spend our deerest blood

thy cheefest harts to slay.”

Then Douglas swore a solempne oathe,

and thus in rage did say:

“Ere thus I will outbraued bee,

one of vs tow shall dye;

I know thee well, an erle thou art;

Lord Pearcy, soe am I.

“But trust me, Pearcye, pittye it were,

and great offence, to kill

Then any of these our guiltlesse men,

for they haue done none ill.

“Let thou and I the battell trye,

and set our men aside:”

“Accurst bee [he!]” Erle Pearcye sayd,

“by whome it is denyed.”

Then stept a gallant squire forth—

Witherington was his name—

Who said, “I wold not haue it told

To Henery our King, for shame,

“That ere my captaine fought on foote,

and I stand looking on.

You bee two Erles,” quoth Witherington,

“and I a squier alone;

“I’le doe the best that doe I may,

while I haue power to stand;

While I haue power to weeld my sword,

I’lt fight with hart and hand.”

Our English archers bent their bowes;

their harts were good and trew;

Att the first flight of arrowes sent,

full foure score Scotts the slew.

To driue the deere with hound and horne,

Douglas bade on the bent;

Two captaines moued with mickle might,

their speres to shiuers went.

They closed full fast on euerye side

noe slackness there was found,

But many a gallant gentleman

lay gasping on the ground.

O Christ! it was great greeue to see

how eche man chose his spere,

And how the blood out of their brests

did gush like water cleare.

At last these two stout erles did meet,

like captaines of great might;

Like lyons woode they layd on lode;

the made a cruell fight.

The fought vntil they both did sweat,

with swords of tempered steele,

Till blood downe their cheekes like raine

the trickling downe did feele.

“O yeeld thee, Pearcye!” Douglas sayd,

“And in faith I will thee bringe

Where thou shall high advanced bee

by Iames our Scottish king.

“Thy ransome I will freely giue,

and this report of thee,

Thou art the most couragious knight

[that ever I did see.]”

“Noe, Douglas!” quoth Erle Percy then,

“thy profer I doe scorne;

I will not yeelde to any Scott

that euer yett was borne!”

With that there came an arrow keene,

out of an English bow,

Which stroke Erle Douglas on the brest

a deepe and deadlye blow.

Who neuer sayd more words than these;

“Fight on, my merry men all!

For why, my life is att [an] end,

lord Pearcy sees my fall.”

Then leauing liffe, Erle Pearcy tooke

the dead man by the hand;

Who said, “Erle Dowglas, for thy life,

Wold I had lost my land!

“O Christ! my verry hart doth bleed

for sorrow for thy sake,

For sure, a more redoubted knight

mischance cold neuer take.”

A knight amongst the Scotts there was

which saw Erle Douglas dye,

Who streight in hart did vow revenge

vpon the Lord Pearcye.

Sir Hugh Mountgomerye was he called,

who, with a spere full bright,

Well mounted on a gallant steed,

ran feircly through the fight,

And past the English archers all,

without all dread or feare,

And through Erle Percyes body then

he thrust his hatfull spere.

With such a vehement force and might

his body he did gore,

The staff ran through the other side

a large cloth-yard and more.

Thus did both those nobles dye,

whose courage none cold staine;

An English archer then perceiued

the noble erle was slaine.

He had [a] good bow in his hand,

made of a trusty tree;

An arrow of a cloth-yard long

to the hard head haled hee.

Against Sir Hugh Mountgomerye

his shaft full right he sett;

The grey-goose-winge that was there-on

in his harts bloode was wett.

This fight from breake of day did last

till setting of the sun,

For when the rung the euening-bell

the battele scarse was done.

With stout Erle Percy there was slaine

Sir Iohn of Egerton,

Sir Robert Harcliffe and Sir William,

Sir Iames, that bold barron.

And with Sir George and Sir Iames,

both knights of good account,

Good Sir Raphe Rebbye there was slaine,

whose prowesse did surmount.

For Witherington needs must I wayle

as one in dolefull dumpes,

For when his leggs were smitten of,

he fought vpon his stumpes.

And with Erle Dowglas there was slaine

Sir Hugh Mountgomerye,

And Sir Charles Morrell, that from feelde

one foote wold neuer flee;

Sir Roger Heuer of Harcliffe tow,

his sisters sonne was hee;

Sir David Lambwell, well esteemed,

but saved he cold not bee.

And the Lord Maxwell, in like case,

with Douglas he did dye;

Of twenty hundred Scottish speeres,

scarce fifty-fiue did flye.

Of fifteen hundred Englishmen

went home but fifty-three;

The rest in Cheuy Chase were slaine,

vnder the greenwoode tree.

Next day did many widdowes come

their husbands to bewayle;

They washt their wounds in brinish teares,

but all wold not prevayle.

Theyr bodyes, bathed in purple blood,

the bore with them away;

They kist them dead a thousand times

ere the were cladd in clay.

The newes was brought to Eddenborrow,

where Scottlands king did rayne,

That braue Erle Douglas soddainlye

was with an arrow slaine.

“O heauy newes!” King Iames can say;

“Scotland may wittenesse bee

I haue not any captaine more

of such account as hee.”

Like tydings to King Henery came,

within as short a space,

That Pearcy of Northumberland

was slaine in Cheuy Chase.

“Now God be with him!” said our king,

“sith it will noe better bee;

I trust I haue within my realme

fiue hundred as good as hee.

“Yett shall not Scotts nor Scottland say

but I will vengeance take,

And be revenged on them all

for braue Erle Percyes sake.”

This vow the king did well performe

after on Humble-downe;

In one day fifty knights were slayne,

with lords of great renowne.

And of the rest, of small account,

did many hundreds dye:

Thus endeth the hunting in Cheuy Chase,

made by the Erle Pearcye.

God saue our king, and blesse this land

with plentye, ioy, and peace,

And grant hencforth that foule debate

twixt noble men may ceaze!